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Let’s get Physic-al: What is Vantablack®?

We’re introducing the exclusive, elusive enigma that’s not quite a colour–but is valued more highly than diamonds or gold.

Dark Side of the Moon
We recently introduced our Venturer Concept Vantablack®, the second timepiece in our collection to showcase a remarkable substance that is, according to scientists, the ‘blackest on Earth’. While our Perpetual Moon model set off a stunning lunar calendar against a Vantablack® field, the Venturer Concept is an even more minimal design, pared down to the absolute essentials with a deep-space dial framed in perilously elegant gold casing. But we thought this rare, enigmatic substance deserved a more thorough exploration.

Space Oddity
Designed for Astrophysicists– to help eliminate stray light in satellites and telescopes– and recently adopted by the military for use in thermal camouflage, Vantablack® is remarkable in its ability to absorb light particles. Strictly speaking, Vantablack® is not actually a colour. Rather, it is an absence of light. Imagine standing beneath immense trees, growing very close to each other– the sunlight would have difficulty penetrating, or escaping. If that sounds complex, excuse us while we put on our labcoats and get technical for a moment…

(We) Want it Painted Black
Colour, as experienced by the human eye, is actually a reflection of light off a particular object and received by the eye. Different frequencies of light are perceived as different colours. Vantablack®, on the other hand, is made up of a kind of ‘forest’ of tiny, hollow carbon nanotubes– each the width of a single atom. In other words, one square centimeter would contain around 1000 million nanotubes. When light hits a surface coated in Vantablack®, rather than bouncing off, it is absorbed and ‘caught’ in this forest of tubes and cannot escape. Which means that Vantablack is in fact a complete absence of colour, giving the illusion of infinite space.

Credits: Surrey Nanosystems

Black Gold
Though it has attracted the attention of artists, designers, and creatives hungry for a taste, Vantablack® is not easily acquired. Firstly, it has been trademarked in the Fine Art world by artist Anish Kapoor. And even if this controversial restriction were to change, it’s not readily available. Ounce for ounce (according to its creators) Vantablack® is much more expensive than diamonds or gold. But here’s a little caveat– it’s quite light! Each nanotube is hollow, so the substance itself has very little mass. It’s also fragile–not durable enough to withstand constant contact. Even a gentle human touch can flatten the nanoparticles. And so, we consider ourselves part of the fortunate few with access to this Black Beauty… (ok, not black, but ‘colourless’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). But don’t take our word for it– if anything must be seen to be believed, it’s Vantablack®.

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